A Tale of Two T-shirts
(The basic white cotton tee vs. the C2C-gold-certified cotton tee)
THE BASIC WHITE COTTON TEE
It’s fashion’s ultimate staple: simple, crisp and clean. It’s worn to bed or to the Oscars, oversized or as an undershirt. We consume it by the three-pack and dispose of it at the first sign of sweat stains. 5 REASONS WHY THIS IS A BAD THING: 1. Currently, over two billion cotton T-shirts are sold worldwide every year. 2. Cotton is the world’s most water-intensive crop: 2,700 litres of water are required to make a single tee. 3. Cotton is also the world’s most herbicideand pesticide-intensive crop, using 24 per cent of the world’s insecticides and 11 per cent of the world’s pesticides annually. 4. Many rural communities worldwide rely on handpicking cotton, which is dirty, toxic work mostly done by women who are paid according to the weight of cotton they can carry in a day. 5. Eighty-five per cent of clothing ends up in a landfill, and much of this waste consists of the ever-popular cotton tee. Once a T-shirt lands in the landfill, it can take years for it to break down. Cotton and all-natural fibres also release methane—a leading cause of climate change—as they break down.
THE C2C-GOLD-CERTIFIED COTTON TEE
In partnership with Fashion for Good, C2Ccertified retailer C&A released the first gold-level C2C-certified T-shirt, which they say makes it “the most sustainable T-shirt in the world.” 5 REASONS WHY THIS IS A GOOD THING: 1. It’s made from 100 per cent Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS)-certified organic cotton. (Organic certification means no toxic chemicals.) 2. The dyes used to create the 17 colours for the T-shirts were assessed to make sure they are good for humans and the environment. 3. To avoid using polyester tags, the label is printed onto the fabric, and the garment is stitched with certified-organic thread. 4. The shirts are manufactured at Pratibha Syntex, a Fair Trade-certified facility in Central India, and Cotton Blossom, a green-powered factory in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Both factories have demonstrated their commitment to workers’ rights as well as environmentally sustainable manufacturing. 5. About 12 weeks after the shirt is composted in your backyard, it turns into healthy soil.
WHAT DOES CRADLE-TO-CRADLE MEAN?
Clothing is typically produced along a linear, or cradle-to-grave, model. It’s created, used and then disposed of. But the cradle-to-cradle (C2C) methodology approaches design with end of life in mind. Waste returns as raw material or fuel or is eliminated altogether in a closed-loop or circular system. It’s the reincarnation of fashion. As William McDonough and Michael Braungart, the visionaries behind the C2C methodology, point out: “Traditional recycling tries to force materials into more lifetimes than they were designed for—a complicated and messy conversion and one that expends energy and resources. [...] If the process is truly to save money and materials, products must be designed from the very beginning to be recycled or even ‘upcycled.’” C2C-certified products are evaluated for material health, material reutilization, renewable energy use, water stewardship and social fairness. Product certification is awarded at five levels—basic, bronze, silver, gold and platinum—to encourage ongoing improvements in design.